School Food Matters turns 15
It’s our birthday! We’re celebrating 15 years of teaching children about food and improving access to healthy and sustainable school meals.
It is your kind donations that help ensure we can provide a wide range of fun, hands-on food education programmes to schools free of charge. The children not only learn about where their food comes from, but also develop important life-long skills through growing, harvesting and cooking delicious fresh fruit and veg.
We have a track record of 15 years of fabulous food education but we want to reach even more children in schools across the country. If you are passionate about creating a generation engaged with the benefits and pleasures of healthy eating, we would love you to support us.
The best way for young people to learn about where food comes from is through growing their own fruit and veg. Our Young Marketeers and Know your Onions programmes gives children the opportunity to grow fruit and veg in their school gardens, before harvesting and selling their fresh produce at local street markets.
Research shows that people who cook at home have healthier diets than those who don't. We believe that every child should be given the opportunity to learn cooking skills at school. That’s why several of our projects teach children to cook with the fresh veg that they’ve grown. Our food teacher Sharon visits schools every week to teach children simple, delicious recipes (learn more here).
Many of us would expect children to receive healthy and nutritious meals at school, but we know that this isn’t always the case. Access to good nutrition should not be determined by where a child lives, or by their parents’ income. Our Healthy Zones programme helps schools develop a strong school food policy that keeps junk food out and puts children’s health first. This means introducing sustained changes to the menu such as plant-based days, water only and switching puds for fruit.
One third of children living in poverty are not eligible for a free school meal. And we know the cost of living crisis has exacerbated the problem, with millions unable to access enough nutritious food. School Food Matters is campaigning loudly for extending free school meals eligibility, so more children are guaranteed at least one hot, nutritious meal a day.
There’s so much more to food than growing and cooking delicious food at home. There’s an entire industry out there, and our Fresh Enterprise programme gives secondary school students the opportunity to learn through experiencing every step of developing a food product. This includes presenting to a Dragon’s Den-style panel, with the tastiest product going into production and being sold by our project partner Belazu.
Our School Garden Grants programme provides schools with funding to transform lifeless outdoor spaces into thriving gardens where students can grow fresh fruit and vegetables. Thanks to the Whole Kids Foundation, we’ve been able to provide £434,500 in grants to 288 schools across London.
No education in food would be complete without exploring the crucial role bees play in sustaining a healthy and diverse food system. As part of our Honeybee programme with Whole Kids Foundation, beekeepers visit schools, teaching children about pollination and giving them a chance to observe a honeybee colony up close. We also help schools create garden havens for honeybees and arrange apiary visits.
Families on the lowest incomes experience added financial pressures during school holidays and struggle to keep their children well fed and entertained. Since 2018, our Holiday Food and Fun programme has been providing fun activities and hot, healthy meals to children during school holidays, thanks to funding from Belazu and Abel & Cole.
We want every child to understand where their food comes from. Our growing and enterprise projects link schools with a local farm, allowing children to meet the farmer, see the crop and then enjoy eating lovely fresh produce at school – farm gate to school plate.
Our expert Food Teacher and project officers really understand children and are excellent at piquing their interest in new food. Healthy Zones gets children involved with preparing and cooking delicious food at school, making them more familiar with different recipes and flavours. And it even works with picky eaters!. Our Food Teacher Sharon also introduces wonderfully exotic recipes to her cooking lessons, which the kids love (read about that here).
At SFM, we want school meals to get better and better, which means quality ingredients, fresh food prepared on site, more training and paid hours for catering staff and a school dining room that makes lunchtime a pleasurable experience. That’s why we provide schools, parents and local authorities with advice and support to get the best school meals for the children they serve.
During Covid, SFM switched focus from educating children and schools about healthy eating to distributing food in response to the crisis, delivering more than one million breakfasts to vulnerable families. We’re currently running a gardening programme in schools to welcome refugees and find that children and their families enjoy planting seeds together, an experience that offers time to reflect and relax.
We’re co-ordinating the School Food Review - a coalition of four leading organisations working to improve school food, calling on the government to reform school food policy, so that no child misses out on good nutrition at school. SFM has also been an active member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, chaired by Sharon Hodgson MP, since its inception in 2010, which exists to keep school food and child hunger on the political agenda.
The food and drinks industry is responsible for around 35% of the UK’s total carbon emissions. We help schools and local authorities redefine their school meal services to prioritise sustainability. This means buying local, seasonal and environmentally friendly food, encouraging less and better meat and dairy and eliminating the need to sell water in plastic bottles.
We now provide food education projects to schools in all 32 London boroughs. Last year, we went on the road for the first time, piloting our Young Marketeers programme in new regions. This year we’re in Gloucestershire, Newcastle and Liverpool and have plans to take our food education programmes across the country.
These recipes have been developed with and for children in breakfast/after school clubs and our cooking workshops. Nutritious, filling and colourful dishes help to engage children and tickle their tastebuds. So why not make these tried and tested meals part of your next trusty tradition!?
If you’re veggie (V), vegan (VG) or in need of a gluten free (GF) recipe, we’ve got you covered. To help you work out which recipes are most suitable for you, check the key on each recipe.